The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives

Monstered

OK, I admit it.

We’ve been watching Masterchef – known in our house as MonsterChef. Nothing much else gets done.

As the competition has proceeded, it has (naturally) become more and more interesting, and when you have a recorder that allows record / playback you can skip the extremely long ad breaks.

Product placement and sponsorship anybody? The show must be a marketeers dream. Coles banners all over the place, and more steri-packs of Campbells Real Stock than you can poke a stick at. And Scanpans. And on and on.

But what really stands out, what I notice more than anything else, is how NICE the contestants are. To everybody. To each other. After watching Gordon Ramsay’s Hells Kitchen, the contrast is staggering. In Hells Kitchen, the contestants are mean, nasty, manipulative, lying, and just downright nasty. Masterchef is the opposite. Does this say something about Australians, or are they just targeting a different demographic?

What?

Another from the “What were they thinking?” files.

Today we bring you:

extra2

Yes, that’s right: “Extra Juicy” juice.

One is naturally forced to wonder:

- Is this the premium brand, big brother of “Not So Juicy” juice? Which is perhaps dried, or watered down.

- Or perhaps instead, Extra Juicy is because the juice contains something extra. What could it be? Sugar? Illicit drugs? Artificial muck from a chemical factory?

This reminds me of those things, brands and places that put “Plus” on the end of their names, connoting some grand additional thingy or experience. “Supermarket Plus”. Hmmm, right. “Gardens Plus”. Perhaps your plants come pre-supplied with diseases and grubs. And my favourite, seen on pubs around Adelaide a few years ago: “Schnitzels Plus”. Does that mean it comes with mushroom sauce? Or just the $4 ambience of a pub and short-order cook, with sticky carpet underfoot that squelches when you walk?

I suppose it does get hard for the marketeers when you are flogging fruit juice. After all, the truly awful artificial muck is only allowed to be called a “Fruit Drink”, meaning it has less than 25% of the real thing in. Once you cross that line, you are a Fruit Juice, and in theory this gets you the premium price, and in a crowed market this is probably a Good Thing. How do you compete? Freshness? Nah. Boring, everyone has that. Packaging? Once some bright spark put handles on a bottle, that one was pretty much pushed to the limits. What’s left? Name.

However, “Extra Juicy”, I’m sorry, gets a fail grade. The teachers are disappointed and suggest trying again in the supplementary exam.

From the what the heck are they thinking files…

She Who Must Be Obeyed bought a nice loaf of dark rye bread.

Spot the two total dipstick marketing statements:

dsc_2904

The first is “Country Grains”. All @$%^$# grains come from the country! Who ever saw a paddock full of wheat or rye in a city? For crying out aloud, save us from this shit. It’s as bad as the yogurt called “Forest Berries”. I think I want to poke my eye out with a fork.

But number 2 is even more stupid. 83% wheat free. Soooooooo, for those who can’t tolerate wheat / gluten, it still has 17% wheat. In other words, IF YOU CAN’T EAT WHEAT, SUCKED IN, YOU STILL CAN’T EAT THIS.

Whoever dreamed up this crap should be taken out and shot.

No, that’s too good for them. Force feed them on 83% crap-free turds for a week (mix real turds with wheaten flour) and see how they like that. Then shoot them.

IDIOTS.

The bread is actually quite nice. Shame about the moron who made the packaging.

There is no such thing as white chocolate

Some of you (the occasional 3 readers) may have figured out that now and again I write a review for Chocablog.

This has, perhaps naturally, led to questions from colleagues at work – the most contentious being “What do you think of white chocolate?”

Work colleagues can stop reading now – you know the answer, having seen the fits of apoplexy into which the subject makes me descend.

My feelings can be summed up very similarly to Kath, who in her recent TV interview on Today Tonight, remarked “Oh no, it offends me”.

Seeing that, and the lunch table conversations of the last few weeks prompted the desire to write a rant.

Offends, yes. Not only is it horrible, but it’s a cunning marketing ploy to get rid of a waste product – being the excess cocoa butter used in the manufacture of proper chocolate or cocoa powder. Have to do something with that junk that’s left. Animal feed? I know! People feed. Let’s find a good name!

Calling this stuff chocolate at all should be illegal. It is not chocolate, it is a mixture of sugar, cocoa butter, and perhaps some milk or milk solids. In other words, it’s FAT and SUGAR, with a bit of white stuff.

Just like Carob is not Chocolate, nor is that white crap chocolate either.

Please, please, stop offending our senses using this clearly wrong name. Calling that muck chocolate amounts to misleading and deceptive conduct. Something the trade practices act does not allow. Grr!

And don’t even mention Top Deck and other such confections used as a means to move more of this muck. Yuk.

Warning: Carob is NOT Chocolate

Some of you might be aware that, in a fit of craziness, I started writing an occasional review of chocolate, for Chocablog.

The other day I found some Carob, and though it would be a neat idea to try it and review it.

The editor rejected me!

‘You know the rules’, he said. ‘It has to be chocolate.’

‘Well’, says I, ‘the purveyors of all things Carob claim it is a chocolate substitute, doesn’t that count?’.

‘You know the rules’, said the editor. ‘Publish it on your own blog instead.’

He’s a tough master, our editor.

So here it is.

—————-

dsc_2650

Us chocabloggers take our jobs (our calling) very seriously. And every now and again, in the name of science and research, some of us have to take a hit for the whole team.

And so its was, with excitement and trepidation, I found a Carob block the other day. I know, I know, Carob is not chocolate.

But Carob is touted as a chocolate substitute, it seems mainly by those with health, moral, ethical or some other objections to the Real Thing. I’ve been reliably informed that Vegans like Carob because it contains no animal products. Which is bizarre because the only animal product I know of in chocolate is milk, and dark chocolate rarely has any of that. On that the other hand, this Carob block contains “milk solids”. Go figure.

The last time I tried any Carob must be 10 or 15 years ago, and my memories of it were that it was OK but nothing special. Time and technology having moved on, I was quite looking forward to trying this.

So last night I broke open the very simple clear plastic packaging.

The first thing I noticed was the strange feel to it. The surface looks just like a light milk-chocolate, but the feel is slightly greasy / oily. Strange. Perhaps it’s the palm kernel oil that goes into it.

I suppose I should have been warned when it claims “Goodness in every bite”, because from there, things just got worse. Palm Kernal oil notwithstanding.

The mouth-feel is all wrong. There is little melting, it needs to be chewed. The feel is gritty / grainy, as though this is a fine powder suspended in something – which it probably is. The taste… well one of the reasons for trying this was the ginger. Which is there. Sort of.

The flavour, such as it is, is most unlike chocolate. By way of comparison… chocolate flavour (in general, it you let it melt) starts small, rises to a peak, and then gradually fades away. It’s a bit like a mountain. Carob, though, rises slowly and reaches a plateau. And it’s damn hard to make it go away. Eating a handful of dirt will give a similar flavour and mouth feel, but the taste will go away mercifully faster.

I’m really sorry to report that this was just awful. It was so bad I couldn’t manage the two pieces I’d tried – I had to rush off to the bathroom and spit it out, then have a big rinse, then clean teeth with lots of toothpaste. Even that could not remove the taste so a couple of squares of Cadbury Old Gold came to the rescue. Even the following morning, I still think I can taste it.

This review may offend the makers, and the lovers and defenders of Carob. Sorry. But I can’t even in desperation come close to recommend this.

————–

And a postscript: the neighbours say they like Carob, so we sent it in there. They swapped it for a bag of freshly dug spuds. The following day the informed us it was a lousy trade. We had to make up with a box of Ferrero Rocher.

Seriously – if you want Chocolate, eat chocolate. If you object to animal products, eat dark chocolate. But don’t eat Carob.

Blink, blink

Like bunnies caught in the headlights… today we have been able to venture outside, blinking in the cloudy day. The first time in 2 weeks where the temperature has been under 33 – and most of those 2 weeks we’ve had 37 to 46 degrees. I think there were two days under 37 (and above 30).

A consequence of the heat is the grapes have ripened a lot earlier than usual. I did a quick sugar test this morning from the poor, pathetic shrivelled things. If it’s possible to ferment out, this should yield a red with 16% alcohol. This is the highest sugar level EVER, and one of the earliest harvests.*

We picked today, a whole 6 1/2 buckets. A simlilar amount had to be dropped on the ground, or just left, because whole bunches are so dried there is no juice left to get. What we picked is now crushed and the juice is hard to find. The fermenter is under half full – and that includes the seeds, pulp and so on. The heat has taken its toll, the berries that looked good had very little juice in them either.

Still, we’ll get the ferment started soon, and might scrape in 4 to 6 bottles this year. In a more normal year, we would make somewhere around 30 bottles per row… this year I donated a row to the birds and a row for ourselves. So much for generosity to the birdies!

(The eye, by the way, seems to be just fine… and must be if I’m out picking grapes and making wine all day).

—–

* when the sugar level is too high, the little yeasties die before they can ferment all the sugar… the alcohol they make kills them. So making a wine with an alcohol level above about 14% to 15% is very difficult. A few winemakers can get up to about 16% or even a tiny bit higher, but it’s not the norm. So in this case, we’ll probably end up with a red of about 13% or 14% with some residual sweetness.

The Willows

Time for a bit of free publicity.

Many years ago – probably just after they opened – we discovered “The Willows Vineyard”, at Light Pass in the Barossa Valley. The Scholz family have been living there, and growing grapes, for a long time. The grapes were sold to others, and that was that.

As I understand it, about 20 or so years ago, one of the Scholz’s ended up working as a winemaker for Peter Lehmann Wines, and then decided to have a go at making his own from the family’s own grapes.

We discovered them on one of those wine-tasting weekends of about 20 years ago, and have since been going back every now and again. I’m on the mailing list, and each year they send a very simple single page, with a very brief description of their activities, and a price list.

Now the reason for writing this is twofold:

- last night I opened a bottle of 1995 (not that is not a mistake) Willows Cabernet Sauvignon. Apart from the cork being pretty stuffed and needing to be fished out in bits with a teaspoon, it is very very very good. A great many modern wines will not survive for 13 years after bottling. This one sure has.

- and now today I’m tidying up piles of paperwork and junk that’s been accumulating for weeks. I found the latest Willows newsletter / pricelist. They are selling a 2005 Shiraz which won a Gold medal in this years Barossa Wine Show, and for a mere $20. Not many places you can get a gold medal winning red, with 3 years age already on it, for that price. A steal.

This is not the only time they have won awards, though. Their reds have been picking off awards from one place or another for years, but this doesn’t seem to have gone to their heads. Where others jack the prices up to something silly ($40 or more), The Willows just keeps on plugging away selling excellent wine at good prices.

You will struggle to find them in bottle shops, but if in the Barossa, make a side-trip out the sticks (Light Pass is flat, rather dull, and a 3-building township) and search out The Willows. It’ll be worth the effort.

—–

Obligatory disclaimer: I’ve got nothing to do with The Willows apart from being a fan of a good product!

Ve Germans like our chokolade, ja!

Not the sweets-and-candy-crap aisle.

This is the bar-of-chocolate aisle in the local supermarket in Berlin, under the Zoo S-Bahn station. Choice!? Ve Haf Plenty off choice, ja !

The greatest BBQ garlic prawns

Every single month since the original publication, this blog’s top 10 search terms include a lookup to a certain recipe with prawns in. No idea anybodyhas actually tried it.

But anyhow, it’s time for Yet Another Recipe For Garlic Prawns.

We cooked these on the BBQ last weekend as part of the feeding of the gathering of the clan, the occasion being oldest son’s birthday. And this had universal acclaim. And dead easy to do. Try!

BBQ Garlic Prawns

You will need:

1 kg raw prawns
4 cloves garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
About a teaspoon of chilli powder
About a teaspoon of Chinese five spice powder
About a tablespoon Sesame Oil
About 2 tablespoon Olive Oil
20 or so Bamboo skewers

Prepare the prawns by removing shells, head, tail, and de-veining (slow and boring).

Put all the prepared prawns in a glass bowl, add the chopped garlic. Sprinkle the chilli powder and five spice powder over the prawns. You might need to mix it all around a bit so it is spread evenly.

Add the sesame and olive oil. (Beware – sesame oil has a strong flavour, don’t be tempted to use only sesame oil).

Stir it all around and leave to stand for a couple of hours. While the prawns are stranding, soak the bamboo skewers in water. You can buy bamboo skewers in most asian grocery stores.

When ready to cook, put about 3-4 prawns on a skewer, and line these up on a tray to make it easy to carry them to your BBQ. Have the BBQ nice and hot, and put these on for a few minutes, turning once or maybe twice until the prawns are cooked and nicely pink.

Serve and eat immediately. You’ll get a whacking big rush of prawn and garlic, a zing of chilli, and the slightly anise flavour of the five spice. The sesame oil just rounds it all off. To die for. And nobody else will come near you for a day or two!

Tis very Adelaide

Today I went out on a limb. Did something a bit brave and unusual.

It’s this blogging thing, see. It has the attraction of anonymity. Just a name on a web page, which means those who are interested can read, and those who aren’t can avoid. And, naturally, those who object can simply naff orf.

ANYHOW… using the pretext of chocolate, today, Wilma the Walrus and I went and met Kath.

Adelaide, being Adelaide suffers a couple of afflictions. One being the daily Murdock aka The Anaesthetiser, the other being that everybody is either related, or known to somebody who is your uncle, cousin, brother, or neighbour. In this case, Kath lives opposite Wilma’s big sister. (Sigh). Very Adelaide.

So, dragging the story out, we dropped the chaps at Bonython Park for a friends birthday and then headed off to an appointment with Adelaide’s very own chocolate critic and reviewer. A couple of kilos of chocolate bought in Europe and unavailable here was the excuse needed to break down the barriers of anonymity. A bottle of Fox Creek Vixen seemed an appropriate way to start proceedings.

Three hilarious hours, one bottle of sparkling red, a couple of coffees, and two chocolate reviews later it was time to buzz off, see Wilma’s sister, look a photos, gasbag about the holiday – with lunch from La Casa Del Pane on Magill Rd. The best italian foccacia you can get!

Finally, we collected the sunburnt chaps and headed home.

On the chocolate front: We can’t get the Lindt Williams Pear in Australia (yet) – all the more reason to try that one. Similarly, the Cote D’Or Noir Sesame was something we only saw in France and Germany, and it does not seem to be available in other countries. Being an unusual combination, this was naturally also worthy of detailed scrutiny. Reviews should be appearing soon on chocablog. But what do I think of them:

The Williams Pear: a lightish milk chocolate, not too sweet (hooray). The filling is a pear liquor: sharp, tangy, not overly pearish. (Put american accent on): Fahn, fahn, mahty fahn.

The Noir Sesame was an absolute standout sensation. The dark chocolate has sesame seeds through it, but the sesame flavour is not overpowering. It’s not as though somebody upended the sesame oil bottle. Instead, its a really nice flavour combination. It just works, we were all a little surprised at how well. Maybe the sesame seeds had been toasted a little, they give a nice crunch. Damn good. Bring it here!

And finally: Adelaide, being Adelaide has one last trick up it’s sleeve. We still have mounted police. No, not on a pedestal. And no, clean minds only please. As in riding horses on patrol. The horses are the Police Greys, and they live in the parklands right next to the main carpark for the Bonython Park. When the horses aren’t working they are grazing amongst a grove of hundred-odd year old olive trees, and any fool can pat them or hop the 3-wire fence and photograph them. Some things are still simple, and free.

Made in Heaven…

Take a moment and think of the really great marriages,  those that lasted the test of time, those that just worked.

Who knows why they worked – many reasons perhaps.

But that brings me to something special. A special marriage, perhaps even heavenly. Something that Just Works.

Of course, you should have guessed it by now: Chocolate and Ginger. More specifically, Dark Chocolate and Ginger.

When you can find such beasties, and the finding can be difficult, they seem to come in two major varieties:

- Dark Chocolate with Ginger; and

- Ginger with Dark Chocolate.

Now before you leap about arguing semantics, it’s actually pretty straightforward, the distinction is merely how much ginger you have. A good example of Ginger with chocolate is the Jakes Candy stuff from Queensland. Big lumps of glace ginger covered in a nice hard dark chocolate.

Yes it comes in great big blocksOn the other hand, a few clever New Zealanders have discovered there is more to life than sheep. Whittakers chocolate is available in Woolworths, and its no too bad at all.

My current victim is Whittakers Spicy Ginger Block – in a nice big 250 g pack so you don’t need to keep making trips back to the supermarket.

So what’s right and wrong?

On the right side, the chocolate is dark, hard, and slightly bitter. Unlike that soft squishy milky rubbish, this needs a good sharp smack to break it. And it melts very slowly, leaving the ginger behind. Also on the right side, it comes packed in a sturdy paper wrapping. Unlike so many makers that use a very thin foil that tears letting the crumbs spread over your lap or through the keyboard, this one takes a lot of punishment.

One the wrong side – well not much really. The name is a bit naff.

Gordo!

We’ve become avid viewers of “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares”.

It becomes easy, after the first episode or two, to ignore young Gordon’s language, and instead concentrate on the message.

Some of the places and practices that Ramsay finds just defy belief. How some people could do what they do, so badly, and so ignorantly… amazing!

Watching this has led me to view all food we either buy or cook in a new light. I’m convinced that in Adelaide we are spoiled, there are so many restaurateurs who know what they are doing, and who clearly make a quid from doing it. There is also a lot of pretty mediocre rubbish around as well. I’ve begun to view everything as a critic: “What would Ramsay say?”. The work canteen would definitely score “Bloody disgusting” about 3 out of 5 days in every week.

He’s an interesting chap, though, Mr Ramsay. After we found the show was on, a few months ago SWMBO found his autobiography (aptly titled “Humble Pie”) in the local library. It becomes easier to understand how he is what he is after reading this. He had a terrible childhood, with a father who was delusional, abusive, and forever escaping creditors. The family must have moved on average every 8 or 9 months. It was so bad he left home aged about 16. This description does no justice. Reading the book, for the first few chapters, was simply eye-popping. Somebody growing up in an environment like that is bound to be either defeated, or relentlessly driven.

It’s a fascinating show, and seeing the practices in some restaurants is appalling. It’s a wonder more people don’t get food poisoning. It also explains a few bouts of gastro I’ve had over the years, usually a day or two after eating out.

If you haven’t watched it, give it a go. Tune out the bad language.

Weevils

I was poking about in the pantry yesterday, can’t even remember what I was looking for.

Then I saw it – that which brings a shudder to the heart of anybody with even a moderate desire to cook: Yes, flour. Not in the bag, on the floor.

“Oh oh”, says I, “some goose has knocked the bag with my special bread making flour and smashed a hole in it.”

From there, it was all downhill. The bag didn’t just have a hole, it had been shredded. Same with the bag of Rye flour, and the other odds and ends. Each bag was eaten through to the point where it looked like badly moth-eaten tissue paper.

The little buggers even ate through the lid of the big sealed plastic container with the plain-ole white breadmakers flour in:

dscn2206.JPG

The BIG hole you see goes right through about 1mm of plastic, and there were numerous others. The faint marks are where they had been trying but had not quite made it through, yet.

Lots of stuff got thrown out yesterday :(

In other exciting news!!!

I had to visit the local GP a few days ago… routine thingy, nothing important.

He looked at his records. Conversation ensued:

Him: “I told you before that you had to get a cholesterol test done, and you haven’t been back for it yet”

Me: “Er… yes… (long pause) I keep forgetting.”

Him: “Yes, you do, don’t you. The form I have for this test is dated May 2005!”

Me: “Oops”

Him: “Do it soon. I’m here early in the mornings, why don’t you come before work some time?”

Me: “How about I leave it until my (mumble)th birthday, a nice present!”

Him: “No, that’s 6 years away, nice try but too long.”

Me: “Drat! Foiled again!”**

So today I was up at the crack of dawn, and standing in the doctors office at 7:45 am having blood sucked out. What fun!

I’ve been on a strict cholesterol controlling diet of dark chocolate and red wine, so I figure there won’t be any problems. :)

——-

** = a certain amount of artistic license used in this line

Seriously good Hummus

I’ve had Hummus from a few places over the years, some good, some bad. Mostly the bad ones are too lumpy.

Anyhow, with some old friends around for lunch today, I decided to have a crack at making a Seriously Good Hummus – and it worked out very well. Here is how:

——-

Take about 3/4 to a cup of dried chickpeas, put them in a bowl and cover with plenty of water. Soak overnight. They will swell so make sure the water level allows for this.

Next day, drain the water off, then put the chickpeas in a saucepan with enough salted water to cover, bring to the boil and simmer for an hour.

Drain the chickpeas, and put them in a food processor with the juice of 2 lemons and 2 (peeled) cloves of garlic. Add about a pinch of salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Also add a little cayenne pepper or chopped chilli (or both). With the pepper / chilli, start with a little – you can add more later.

Add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of Tahini (ground sesame seeds – available in supermarkets).

Blend the mix, adding up to about 1/2 cup of good olive oil. If the consistency is too thick, add more lemon juice and then more olive oil.

Taste as you go. You want the lemon to be present without being overpowering. You can also add a bit more chopped chilli if it’s warranted.

Keep blending, adding more olive oil if needed until you have a good paste / dip consistency. It will take longer than you expect to get the coarse texture out – keep going.

To serve, scoop it all out and place in a serving bowl. Sprinkle a little ground paprika and a little drizzle of olive oil over the top.

Scoop this out with some crackers or bread, or phonecian bread, or similar and just eat. Yum!

——-

You want the Hummus to have a smooth texture without lumps. It should taste of a hint of lemon, and the sesame flavour of the Tahini should just be apparent. It should not be too oily, and you should have a nice after-taste from the garlic. The chilli might not be authentic but it gives a nice zing. You don’t want it to blow your mouth off.

Lemon Grass

The Lemon Grass was way overgrown, so I’ve ripped out all the dead bits and pulled about 1/2 of it out. Now it’s thinned enough it might survive.

What does one do with mountains of lemon grass?

dscn2031.JPG

Why – chop it finely and freeze it.

And Mmmmmmm – the smell of freshly chopped lemon grass!

Two Caravans

I’ve just finished reading “Two Caravans” by Marina Lewycka.

As well as being a rollicking good read, it’s changed my approach to some of the food we eat. I can’t look at those nice packets of chicken in the supermarket in quite the same way, any more.

The description of intensive chicken farming (admittedly in Britain) is terrible and I’m well and truly put off.

I’ll take the liberty of quoting a few passages to illustrate the point:

When Neil opens the door of the barn for him to look inside, a wave of heat and stench hits him, and in the half-darkness he sees just a thick carpet of white feathers; then as Neil turns up the light, the carpet seems to be moving too; no, crawling; no, seething. They are so tightly packed you can’t make out where one chicken ends and next next begins. And the smell! It hits him in the eyes as well as the nose – a rank cloud of raw ammonia that makes his eyes burn, and he coughs and backs away from the door, his hand over his mouth. He has seen paintings of the damned souls in hell, but they are nothing compared to this.

And:

… they call them chickens, but their bodies look more like a misshapen duck’s – huge bloated bodies on top of stunted little legs, so that they seem to be staggering grotesquely under their own weight.

‘Yeah, they breed ‘em like that to get fat, like, quicker.’ … ‘It’s the supermarkets, see? They go for big breasts. Like fellers, eh?’

… ‘They keep the lights on low, so they never stop for a kip – just keep on feeding all night. … They mix the feed with that anti-bio stuff, like, to stop ‘em getting sick.’

Later, the description of catching the chickens is quite appalling.

Then we get to bit about how they are slaughtered:

When the chickens arrived at the slaughterhouse, Tomasz’s job was to hang them up by their feet in shackles suspended from a moving overhead conveyor, where they dangled, squarking hopelessly, especially those with broken legs… as the conveyor despatched them, head first, through a bath of electrified water, which was supposed to stun them, before their throats were cut with an automatic blade. But just in case the water didn’t work or the blade missed, which was often enough, there were a couple of slaughtermen standing by to slit their throats before they were sent through to the steam room, where they were plunged into the scalding tank to loosen the feathers. Then they were mechanically de-feathered and de-footed before being eviscerated by another team of slaughtermen.

Somewhere along the way we learn that the chicken is injected with water, salt, pork meat and “other stuff” to make them look plump.

I’m pretty sure the latter (injecting…) does not happen in Australia where food standards seem to be marginally better, but this all tallies with British Bacon.

Years ago we were travelling around the UK, and found that the bacon wouldn’t crisp, if you put in a pan it would boil and all this watery crud would come out before you could eventually get it to brown a bit. We were later told that the bacon has water injected into it. Great for getting the weight higher, but tastes like crap. At least Australian bacon is not that bad, so I’m hoping the chicken gets slightly better treatment as well.

And European orange juice tastes strange as well. Turns out that here we use the orange juice. The British stuff (god knows where it comes from) is crushed whole oranges – including all the bitter oils that come from the skins.

ANYHOW – if you get a chance, read it. You’ll never look at intensively farmed meat, fruit, or vegetables the same way again.

Entertaining, good fun, and appalling – all at the same time.

Pork Fillet and Apple

A long long time ago, Ainsley Herriott did a TV cooking show. He did simple dish with Pork Fillet and apples, but I can’t remember exactly what it was.

Tonight I did my attempt at a re-creation. And damn fine it was too. Try it!

This is very lean, needs very little cooking oil, and its quick, easy and delicious.

To serve 4 you will need:

an apple, in eighths (ie quarter it, then cut each of those in lengthwise halves)
about 200 ml apple juice or cider (fruit juice in a box is fine)
a couple of Pork Fillets
about 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
ground black pepperTake your Pork Fillets and cut each into about 2 or 3 equal size pieces.

Put these in a hot pan with a tiny bit of peanut oil, and cook on all sides until a nice golden colour and the meat is cooked through (probably 15 minutes all up – Pork Fillet is pretty thick).

Once the Pork is mostly cooked, put the apples pieces in the same pan and cook those until golden on one side. Turn and do the other side. Watch out – it’s easy to burn the apple!

When the apple is done, the Pork should be completely cooked. Add the apple juice and the balsamic vinegar. Grind over a generous amount of black pepper, and reduce over a high heat. You want to end up with a syrup, about 1-2 tablespoons per person.

To serve, put a couple of pieces of apple on each plate, along with a piece of the Pork. Use tongs and a very sharp knife to make 4-6 cheffy looking diagonal cuts in the Pork from the top through to nearly the bottom, then spoon roughly 1-2 tablespoons of the syrup over – it needs to run down through those cuts.

I did this with home made potato chips (thick chunky slow cooked), and fennel chips.

You will be bowled over by the apple flavour, and its EASY and FAST!

For a nice variation you could stir about a tablespoon of cream into the syrup at about the time it has reduced enough.

(To make fennel chips, get a fennel bulb, cut in half top-bottom, then from one half cut into about 6-8 pieces each about 5-8 mm thick. Cook these quickly in a hot pan with about a teaspoon of peanut oil until golden on both sides. This will take about 5 minutes all up. If you like fennel, do the whole thing, otherwise you have half a fennel bulb to use for something else.)

The death of personal responsibility – a second go

There has been a bit of a fuss about the Labor folks thinking the Shreck promotional stuff is going too far, especially in selling junk food to children.

The other day, this reply / comment appear in Crikey. It’s worth quoting, and commenting. For information, Christian Kerr wrote an article about fat people. Paragraph break additions are mine.

Nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton writes: Christian Kerr’s claim that “if you’re fat or if your kids are, it’s probably because you’re also lazy – too lazy to exercise, too lazy to cook and eat properly and too lazy to fight marketing” shows he has never worked with people suffering from obesity. Blaming the victim is also unlikely to lead to any solutions.

Of course, people can make decisions about what they eat and drink, they can learn to cook (it would help if schools taught kids to cook) and they can (usually) do some exercise.

But many people are unaware of what is in foods and drinks and the food industry rejects a clear “traffic light” labeling scheme that would make it easy to choose from the 30,000 different foods on offer in a typical supermarket. Many of the two-thirds of Australian men who are too fat are unaware that abdominal fat is a problem and wrongly believe they just have “a bit of a beer gut”.

Studies in Victoria also found that most parents do not recognise that their overweight children (especially boys) have a problem because they look pretty much like their friends.

Few people in our society make a decision to be fat — it’s more a combination of genes and an environment that makes it difficult for people to make good food and exercise choices. Many people also eat for emotional reasons — including picking up the message from unsympathetic people that fat = lazy. There is no evidence to support such an assertion.

Two world experts in food policy (Professor Tim Lang and Dr Geoffrey Rayner of London City University) have stated that obesity is a function of “the rise and rise of car culture and other advances marginalising daily physical activity; widening distances between homes and work or shops; the over consumption of food accompanied by its unprecedented, plentiful availability; the culture of clever and constant advertising flattering choice; the shift from meal-time eating to permanent grazing; the replacement of water by sugary soft drinks; the rising influence of large commercial concerns framing what is available and what sells.”

Some of these factors are under individual control; others are related to the way we organise our society to satisfy economic and political ends. Governments must address obesity as the ensuing health care costs will cripple their budgets in the near future.

There are things that can be done and finding ways to counteract the efforts of clever marketing gurus that seek to subvert kids is a small start. At least Nicola Roxon is prepared to look at the issue. Some more comprehensive positive policy statements from Kevin Rudd would be welcome. Damning the victims of our obesogenic environment will achieve nothing.

Well, Rosemary, sort of agree, and sort of disagree.

Picking over a few of the arguments:

Blaming the victim

Blaming the victim is a convenient and shorthand way of saying that people – individuals – must take some responsibility for their own lives and their own actions.

Ignorance, rather than laziness, can make doing so difficult, but in the end the only way that people anywhere have ever made significant progress against their problems is because they have wanted to do so. Nanny-state prescriptions don’t work. How many examples of this need to be wheeled out?

Blaming the corporations

A common approach is to lay the root cause of all our troubles at the feet of rapacious corporations.

But corporations are just people, they are just you and I, and they are owned by us and our superannuation funds.

Corporations live in the market economy, something that’s deemed in today’s world to be A Good Thing. whether that’s the case or not is the subject for a separate philosophical debate.

An attribute of competition in the market economy is not just sales growth, it’s survival. Everybody wants an edge, and in a competitive market the edge is about whatever works. Frequently it’s taking sales from your competitors. New (really new) sales are jolly hard to come by.

A wee digression: think of those retailers who want more opening hours, less regulation, blah blah blah. “More opening hours will make more jobs”. Phooey. There is only a certain amount can be spent on STUFF. More opening hours might make more convenience, but it does not make some magic-pudding of retail money magically appear and get spent.

Anyhow… For the food corporations to survive they will do the SMALLEST POSSIBLE amount of marking of their products. In fact, the smallest possible amount of compliance with regulations. Why? Because their competitors do! And even if food items are marked, how many Joe and Joesephine Averages read it anyhow? (back to ignorance)

The corporations deserve part of the blame, but by no means all.

THE SYSTEM, that allows the corporations to do what they do, is equally culpable. But in the end, that’s just us (the people) as well. We can include our governments, but hey, they just us, the people as well!

A traffic light labelling scheme

Spare me.

Really, who will set the standards? And on what basis?

And what about when research leads to changes in what’s considered acceptable?

SOME FOODS ALREADY HAVE TRAFFIC LIGHT-ISH LABELLING: Just look at the rampant use of nonsense like “97% fat free”. (And ice-cream makers are especially bad – pull out the fat and put glucose in instead. Lots of it. Glucose is very nasty stuff.)

Simplistic solutions rely on some all-knowing benevolent father passing knowledgeable decrees down from on high. And what if they are wrong?

Remember when it was the thing to eat lard? To have an egg for breakfast every day? You must have cereal for breakfast! No, grains are bad, eat protein! Protein – ergh – evil stuff, eat cardboard. On and on the advice goes. And changes.

Fat factors

“the rise and rise of car culture and other advances marginalising daily physical activity;”

Hard to disagree with this one, but seriously, what is to be done about it? The serious answer is nothing.

“widening distances between homes and work or shops;”

Ditto.

“the over consumption of food accompanied by its unprecedented, plentiful availability;”

Now we might be getting somewhere. Once, food was expensive, people had little money left for McMansions after basic survival, and they ate enough to survive, not always to live well. Here I’m only going back about 50 to 70 years.

Factory farms, intensive agriculture, mechanisation, cheap oil, modern fertilisers have all helped drive the price of food down dramatically in modern times. A natural consequence of plenty is to eat more. Hard times may make a change, little else will. Cheap food will be with us for a long time to come.

“the culture of clever and constant advertising flattering choice;”

Go back to what I wrote above – advertising is a fact of life in a market economy. Whilst we might all agree that the advertising is evil, and wring our hands, we need to question the alternative.

Governments can try and regulate advertising, which is possible but difficult, or they can nationalise the means of food production. Oops! That’s sounding like Communism, and we’ve had a 50 year experiment conducted to show how well that works!

“the shift from meal-time eating to permanent grazing;”

Ahh! Now what might cause that? We could start with families who don’t eat together, or who shovel food down whilst watching Neighbours or Big Brother. This is where we end up in the land of personal responsibility again!

“the replacement of water by sugary soft drinks;”

Arrggghhh! Ditto!!

Seriously – are we to ban the sale of soft drinks? Or super-tax them?

HOW are governments going to reduce the sale of soft drinks?

Governments in Australia give us clean drinkable water from our taps, and one of the fastest growing product sales groups is bottled water!

For heavens sake, if the population is so stupid that they pay extra for water that they can get from the domestic tap for cents per litre, how the heck will you wean them off the lolly-water?

It’s a PERSONAL CHOICE to drink this muck, and it’s up to people to stop doing so.

“the rising influence of large commercial concerns framing what is available and what sells.”

Arrgghh and arrgghh again.

If people were not lazy, and actually cooked their own food, this would be a non-issue.

Back to personal choice again. Buying pre-prepared or take-away food is about speed, and convenience – hey – isn’t that really about laziness?

Buying basic food ingredients like meat, milk, cheeses, vegetables, fruit, flour, bread and such like is always possible, always available, and is damn hard for the “large commercial concerns” to do anything with. And the resulting meals taste better too!

Parents, children, body and image

Fat kids not seen as fat by the parents?

What the heck is wrong with the parents? YOU CANNOT blame governments or the mysterious “they” for this.

Parents need to lift the scales from their eyes. Rolls of blubber on a 10 year old is not healthy, no matter how it is rationalised.

Parents bear significant responsibility, and must take the blame.

Parents who allow lots of take-away food, who give in when the kids want a drink by buying a LARGE soft drink. Parents who won’t cook. Parents who won’t think. Parents who want to buy their childrens love with yummy tasty fatty sweet food. These are the parents who MUST accept responsibility for their actions and make changes.

Blaming governments, schools, or corporations for obese children is a cop-out. Who puts food into children’s mouths?

Teaching in schools, exercise in schools

Oh dear, ANOTHER cop out and blame-shifting exercise!

South Australian schools do teach children cooking, my oldest son has been doing it, and he’s a pretty accomplished 13 year-old. So… some do. It helps. But it’s not everything.

Expecting schools to pick up after slack parents is crazy. This is no different to schools feeding breakfast to children with parents who can’t / don’t / won’t do it themselves. It might be started to satisfy worries or feelings of responsibility on the part of the teachers but it’s masking something far far worse.

And then we come to school exercise programs.

Doing an hour a day of The Health Hustle, or running, is surely predicated on the notion that the victims ARE to blame and can be cured by taking them away from feeding their brains, and getting them out raising a sweat.

The increased use of cars, and the large increases in fatty and sugary foods over the years will NEVER be compensated for by a few measly minutes of school exercise. The calorie balance just isn’t right. All this will do is create a nation of overweight and under-educated children!

These things are an exercise in futility, they will have no significant effect.

What to do?

We can accept that radical changes to our social systems are unlikely to happen – so corporations and advertising will be with us for a long time.

We can regulate advertising, and we should. It was done with cigarettes – among many squeals of outrage – but it can be done, so it should be.

What about lolly water and take-away food? Banning would never be accepted by the great unwashed masses, so that won’t even happen. There is already choice with diet / low sugar drinks containing all manner of soup from the chemical factories. Educating parents, somehow, might be feasible. (But look at smokers – advertising bans have not eliminated the puffers.)

There can be financial incentives, or penalties – perhaps a Medicare surcharge for people more than some percentage overweight? It needs to be a large amount, some people have genes that make putting the kilos on very easy, but many of the naturally big people are not obese and should not be punished for being a feather heavier than Kate Moss.

Family doctors could provide leaflets and advice.

A brave government could introduce compulsory obesity counselling and education.

In the end, though, the solutions to our problems lay within ourselves.

We, the people who eat the rubbish we do – we have to make the choice for how to live, and what to eat.

Expecting a magical bale-out is fanciful.

Now, I’m off to find some chocolate.

Alex and Nick’s DAMN GOOD puttanesca

I work with Nick, and he sent me this a couple of years ago (argh. That long… sad).

I have finally made it.

I could not do it exactly as listed because of not having everything, so I improvised. Either way it’s DAMN GOOD.

Here is the before and after. Try it, try it!

——-

Original:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
2-3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-2 small red chillis (we use the ones out of the tuna)
4 anchovy fillets
1tbsp tomato paste
400g tin tomatoes
2 tbsp capers
120g sliced Kalamata olives
2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
185g tin tuna with chilli in oil (we use “Sirena” brand, since it usually has enough whole chilli in it to use) Fresh lemon for juice 500g spaghetti or linguine

Heat the oil in a large heavy based fry pan (preferably big enough to take all the ingredients and the pasta at the end).
Add the onion and cook it for ~5-6 minutes or until translucent.
Add the garlic, chilli, and anchovies and cook for about a minute.
Stir through the tomato paste and cook for another minute.
Add the tomatoes, breaking them up, capers, and olives, reduce the heat and leave to simmer for ~10 minutes or until it’s thick enough.
When the sauce is almost ready, cook the pasta however you like it.
To finish the sauce, flake in the tuna and warm it through. Add the parsely and a really good squeeze of lemon juice. Drain the pasta and tip it all into the sauce and stir it to mix it through thoroughly.

The secrets are to use the full 1/4 cup of good extra virgin oil, and a real good squeeze of lemon juice at the end.

———

My version (pretty much using fresh tomato instead of tinned, but dried parsley)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon of minced chilli from a jar
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
3 large Roma tomatoes, finely chopped
1 sachet tomato paste
2 tbsp capers
about a handful of roughly chopped Kalamata olives
about a teaspoon dried parsley
180g tin tuna in springwater
Fresh lemon for juice
500g spaghetti or linguine

Heat the oil in a large heavy based frypan.
Add the onion and cook it for ~5-6 minutes or until translucent.
Add the garlic, chilli, and anchovies and cook for about a minute.
Add the chopped Roma tomatoes, and cook for about 10 minutes.
Start cooking your pasta.
Add the tomato paste, capers, and olives, reduce the heat and leave to simmer for ~10 minutes or until it’s thick enough.
To finish the sauce, drain the tuna, flake it in the tuna and stir it through. Add the parsley and a really good squeeze of lemon juice. Let it cook for another minute or so.
Drain the pasta, tip it back into the pot, and tip all into the sauce in. Stir it to mix it through thoroughly.
Serve with an Italian red wine or a rosé.

(A Dominic Versace Rosé went REALLY well with it).

Wine of the week

Tatachilla Shiraz Viognier.

Excellent, really, really good. Get one of these and wrap yerself around it!

Of new pans and product quality

After enduring years of buying various non-stick fry pans, SWMBO and I finally reached agreement: We Have Had Enough Of This Crap And We Are Not Taking It Any More.

So we went and bought a real one.

This post is really about product quality, a theme I’ve been banging on about at work, and which prompted me to do this picture in best Kathy Sierra style:

The diagram is for MANUFACTURERS of products:

Making crap means you don’t get happy customers, unhappy customers tell others, and in the long run, low quality means your business won’t survive. These days most of the Crap is Cheap, and is imported from China and sold through discount stores. A heck of a lot is sold through Bunnings, too.

Making something Pretty Good gives you a chance of success. There are lots of manufacturers of stuff that’s Pretty Good. You pay a bit more, and generally customers are happy. Manufacturers of the Pretty Good can (and sure do) struggle – they compete with each other and with all the cheap crap. It’s a hard life, making something that’s Pretty Good.

Making something Perfect is a bad, bad move: mainly because you can spend so long in product development, burning up money, tweaking and finishing, polishing and adjusting, and getting just that little bit better. Perfect products don’t ship, so makers of perfect products are just like makers of crap – in the long run they don’t survive. They can have a lot of fun going broke, though.

Making something Excellent is where only a few manufacturers want to be, with deliberate strategies to get there and stay there. Excellent products stand out from the Pretty Good by something… figuring out the something is the hard part. Usually some kind of feature, or innovation, something people are prepared to have which makes the product stand out.

Excellent products naturally cost more than just the Pretty Good – after all, why sell for less when you stand out? Makers of Excellent products can (all going well) make very high margins on their products, and customers are happy for them to do so, because those customers get something that is (truly) Excellent. Complacency, and slipping back to being merely Good is a big danger.

—-

So, to pans:

Cheap Cheap!

Once upon a time, when money was tight, we bought whatever was cheap.

By and large, cheap was (and still is) crap. In the case of a fry pan, cheap is made of thin pressed metal. Over time the heating and cooling cycles make the base of the pan dish outwards.

you know all those pans you have that won’t sit flat on a stove? Cheap CRAP.

Pans that don’t sit flat on a stove annoy me.

There is a cheap and cheerful temporary solution: turn the pan upside down and place it on the kitchen benchtop (handle sticking out off the bench). Now get something heavy – a wooden breadboard will do, and bring it crashing down HARD on the centre of the pan base. A couple of blows usually knocks them back into shape. I’ve done this at home for years, and I’ve been known to do it in holiday accommodation – B&Bs and so on – as well. Not my pan? Don’t care. It’s busted and I’m gonna fix it. Very noisy! Scares the hell out of everybody if you haven’t told then you are doing this!

Cheap pans have cheap non-stick coatings. These are usually soft, scratch easily, or they peel or blister. They are thin and in the event you get something carbonised on which won’t come off easily you are pretty much screwed. There are various home remedies for cleaning up these pans – they work after a fashion, once or twice – but in the end, screwed is screwed.

Moving Up

A few years ago we found better kitchenware – made by an Adelaide company, part of the business my former employer had. Nice – a thick base, though still pressed. A decent thick coating, though still fairly soft. This one was about $40.

We had moved up from the Cheap Crap, to the Pretty Good.

After about 5 years, this one too is beginning to show its age and its quality.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad product, it is merely a good one. It has no dishing of the base, it has a few minor scratches on the coating, and it is generally doing well.

It’s also clear that within another year or so it will be getting to be past its use-by date and up for replacement.

Along the way we bought a humungous Le Creuset cast iron pan – seemed a good idea at the time and for some jobs it’s just fine. (Hint: never ever ever wash a cast-iron pan with soap or detergent. Warm water only. Ever.) The test is cooking fried eggs in a cast-iron pan. Very very difficult. It also weighs about 3/4 tonne and to carry it any distance is a two-handed task. For day-to-day use it is not quite appropriate.

The Experiment

So far our journeys in fry-pans have moved from the Crap to the Good - so what about the Excellent?

Today we went out and bought a new pan. Gasp – shock, horror!

This is a Swiss Diamond. The things which should make it an Excellent product, that stands above the others are:

- whilst aluminium, it is thick, and it’s cast rather than pressed;

- the base is seriously flat – it looks like it has been machined;

- the coating is some new space-age combination of diamonds (really!) and some fandangled non-stick thing. The coating survives the Choice Magazine test of 10,000 cycles being scraped with a scotch-brite pad, and you can use metal utensils with it; and

- the manufacturers must believe their own hype, it has a lifetime guarantee.

And yes, it cost about 3 times a much as the Good pan it will replace.

The true test will be what we think of it in 5 years time, but who could pass up the chance to try it out? Tonight we browned 1 kg of beef pieces in it, and the cleanup was dead easy. The best ever. So it’s off to a good start.

Truly – paying 3 times the price for an EXCELLENT product will be well worth it, if it lives up to its promise.

Thus forming a concrete example of the picture up the top.

HTBAWW in 6 easy steps

How to be a Wine Wanker in 6 easy steps

What a surprise!

Been on leave today, to join some colleagues for a trip around the Barossa trying a bit of wine, followed by a long Italian lunch in the deep north.

Bit of a long story about how this came about, and I was not really sure what to expect. Pleasantly surprised was the result though – especially lunch at the final stop.

The day went something like this: Visit a few wineries (Rockford, Bethany, St Hallett) before heading back to Angle Vale for more wine and lunch.

Angle Vale? Who on earth buys wine at Angle Vale?

Well… It turns out that Dominic Versace makes wine at Angle Vale, under the name (surprise) Dominic Versace Wines. Again, a name I had never heard of. Some googling tonight shows that in the right circles they are quite well known for making a top-notch product. Every review I found tonight is flattering.

From not knowing what to expect – EVERYTHING WAS EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD!

They make small amounts of wine the simplest possible way – no big factory here, just a shed with some barrels in and everything hand made.

We started with an unwooded Chardonnay , served lightly chilled – too cold and there is no flavour. I’m not a huge fan of Chardy any more but this was exceptionally good.

Then, a Sangiovese – a common grape for making wine in Italy. Sometimes it is used here, often making a fairly ordinary wine. This, like the Chardonnay, was damn good.

But there was more – a Sparkling Red, a Sangiovese / Shiraz / Grenache blend, a Rose, a straight Shiraz. The Sparkling Red in particular was big, rich, smoky – one of the best examples of the type ever. At least as good as Rockfords Black Shiraz (and that’s a big statement).

The winemaker (that’s Dominic) was stoking the pizza oven and we spent the next couple of hours eating real pizza, pickles, cheeses, and a fantastic pear and rocket salad. Pizzas were simple – prawn, or tomato and salami, or roast capsicum. All with a little cheese of course, and I suspect some herbs. But not covered in huge amounts of stuff, just a few simple ingredients done really, really well.

All this was laid on because one of the group knows Dominic, and used to go there pruning the vines at one time.

I feel very privileged, we got Rolls Royce treatment from a small family winemaker, drank some of the best wines I have ever come across, ate extremely well, and even got to try some of a special reserve straight from the barrel.

I’ll be back – probably this weekend, they are less than 20 minutes drive away!!! My wallet will suffer but who cares when there is wine of this quality to be bought!

———

**** EDIT Saturday pm: Just come back with a few bottles. That sparkling Shiraz is a mere $20 a bottle – a steal. You’d pay twice this for some others of comparable quality. I cannot recommend this place enough. With a clean palate, everything was simply stunning. As good as it seemed yesterday, if not better.

After the last buy-up I swore I would not buy any more wine for 2 years. That resolution lasted a month. Pathetic isn’t it.

Piss and vinegar

We’ve been given a Vinegar Mother.

For thems what’s not in the know, this is a thing that converts wine into wine vinegar.

It looks a bit like a bowl full of placenta. Every now any again you need to divide the “mother” , to prevent it getting too big. We are still not sure exactly what to do with it, these folks seem helpful.

So far we have been feeding it – a couple of glasses of left over red wine. (LEFT-OVER WINE? IS THERE ANY SUCH THING!?)

We made the mistake of putting it in the bathroom, which led to the discovery of the most obvious downside: the smell.

Making vinegar comes with its own delightful smell, which in this case is a bit like the whiff of really bad foot odour on a summers day.

The combination of the look (a big red thing – hence the placenta description above) and the smell means it’s off to a poor start. This does all lead though to the obvious question: What’s the vinegar like? So far, we have no had it long enough to tell so we haven’t a clue. :)

Make your own Limoncello in 3 easy lessons

Ever had Limoncello? It’s an Italian liqueur. It usually comes from the bottle shop, in a small bottle of about 100 to 150 ml, for some outrageous price – that size bottle is usually $15 to $20.

You can make your own, especially if you have a lemon tree that’s going crazy and dumping lemons like there’s no tomorrow. And, you don’t need 3 easy lessons, you only need 3 months.

All Italians reading: stop now if you are easily offended, OR leave comments and criticise my method!

To make about a litre, or maybe a bit more:

Grab yourself a load of lemons – about 10 – 15 will do, the exact amount does not matter a huge lot so long as you have plenty. Make sure they are clean. Wash them if you need to, and gently dry.

dscn1683.JPGZest them. You want the yellow part of the skin and not the pith. The white pith makes it bitter and yuk. To zest, use one of these:

They are available in most good cookery shops, or even Woolies, for only a couple of $. They do a good job. Using a sharp knife or a vegetable peeler is the pits. :( Don’t bother.

Use your zester to scrape off as much of the yellow lemon skin as you can, scoop it up and put it in a glass jar for which you have a screw top sealing lid. You will have lemon oil all over yourself, the bench, the zester, and so on. The lemon oil is important for the Limoncello. Don’t waste it. It will also clean grot off your benchtops and your hands. :)

So, having put all the zest in your jar, add about 3/4 litre of vodka. Screw on the lid. Leave it in a warm place for about 3 months.

Stronger (and more expensive) vodka is better. Don’t use flavoured vodka!

—-

About 6 months later, having discovered a jar of yellow stringy looking stuff in some strange warm place, you need to strain it and add a sugar syrup.

dscn1684.JPGStraining is just done with a tea-strainer to get the big bits out. To clarify it further, use a muslin cloth.

This will help filter the smaller of the lumpy bits out.

You may also need to squeeze out the lemon skin to get the last of the lemony vodka out of it. Nothing much is ideal for this. Try squeezing in your fist over a strainer.

This should all end up yielding a bit more than 1/2 litre of stuff that looks a bit like horses pee and smells very strongly of lemon.

Now warm about 3/4 – 1litre of water with about 3-4 cups of sugar, until the sugar is dissolved. Let this cool. Add to the vodka/lemon mix, and bottle. You might want to add some of the syrup and hold back a bit, so you can taste the result and add more syrup if you think its needed.

You can drink this straight, chilled, in a SMALL glass.

On a summer afternoon, try pouring it over crushed ice and then sipping slowly.

Or, mix like a lemon cordial with sparkling soda water to make a refreshing lemon drink with a bit of a kick. Only for the adults, though.

And if all this is too hard, just buy it from the bottle shop. Bottoms up!

The Wine and Pizza Tour down South

Being twenny years and all that since getting hitched, t’other ‘alf and I decided to do something special – as in go away for a couple of days without the little gentlemens.

Living close to the Barossa means it was out of the question. When you are only 40 minutes from a really good wine region, there is only so much before it’s time to go somewhere else.

So we booked a B&B at McLaren Vale, took Friday off on leave, made arrangements with Grandma for the care and feeding of the chaps, and took off for a weekend of food and wine.

First stop, seeing as we had to go pretty much via Adelaide anyhow, was the central market to load up on cheese, bread, a bit of fruit and so on. Somebody had beautiful Roma tomatoes for about $1.50 / kg. A screaming bargain. Shame we were going away or I would have bought a whole lot to do the Italian tomato sauce thing.

We got a very nice mild goats cheese, a strong sticky squashy cheese, salami, sun-dried olives (mmmmmm), and a few other goodies.

Then off through the horrors of the drive South. I’m pretty disgusted at the road system to the South of Adelaide. It’s an unplanned, slow-moving shambles – and this was at midday!

Made it finally to McLaren Vale and just had to try a few wee drinkies here or there. Some very nice wines come from this region and there were no disappointments.

After checking in to the place we were staying at, and mooching around a bit, come sunset we decided to head to Willunga and try out Russell Jeavons pizza’s. This place is a legend. They used to only open Friday nights – but now they do Saturday as well if things are busy. The only sign is a battered bit of metal with something that looks written on in texta. It took 4 drives past to find the place, not helped by the large sign outside saying “Minko Wines”! The vast number of parked cars was a bit of a giveaway, though. Trouble was, without a booking, we had no chance.

dscn1526.JPG
Sun setting over the vines…

Back instead to McLaren Vale, where Oscars diner came to the rescue. They do pizza too! Oscars sorted us out with a small pizza each. Now how is this for a pizza:

  • Mediterranean: roast pumpkin, roast capsicum, eggplant, caramelised onion, rocket and fetta. Gee was this good!
  • Moroccan: braised lamb, roasted eggplant, Spanish onion, tzatziki and citrus zest. Again, very nice.

All this accompanied by a couple of glasses of sparkling Shiraz from the Settlement Wine Company, which went down very well indeed.

She Who Must Be Obeyed was sucked in by sticky date pudding for desert and had to be restrained from licking the plate clean.

And so to Saturday. We’ve been told many times to go to the Willunga farmers market, held every Saturday morning.

I was skeptical but came away surprised and with the wallet a lot lighter. Good olive oil, delicious lemon tarts, and many, many more things for sale. If we had been going straight home we could have filled the car several times over. Perhaps it’s a good thing we had another night to stay. How about beautiful peaches for $1.10 / kg? Freshly made cheeses, freshly baked bread, vegetables… And more.

dscn1536.JPG dscn1537.JPG dscn1539.JPG
(Click to make ‘em bigger)

And then, more wine tasting. After all, it is wine region! Stand-outs:

  • Fox Creek. We tried the entire list from top to bottom. Sascha and her offsider were very patient with us, and also wouldn’t let us skip anything. We got the story of the dog who spends all day running up and down the rows of grapes when one of the wires is plucked, chasing the sound – and then has to be carried home because his paws hurt! And they did great imitations of American customers :) And they have all this cool stuff made from old barrels and bits of wood and things. Wine not cheap, but very, very good.

dscn1541.JPG dscn1542.JPG
(And click these to embiggerate as well)

  • Foggo Road Wines. Small, chosen on whim. Again, very good. Sandi the winemaker was behind the counter. She and Bruce the Kiwi Grape Picker spent an hour chatting, suggesting things to try, talking about what the season was like, how terrible the yields are this year because of drought (now) and frost (spring last year), and how the whole region is suffering. I don’t know if Bruce was his real name, but it made an entertaining afternoon.
  • The Settlement Wine Company. Had to go after the wine with pizza the night before. These folks have a smaller range, all good, and I was blown away by the prices. The standout bargain highlight of the trip. EVERYTHING was about 1/2 the price of everywhere else. These people are crazy – they were underselling themselves.
  • And finally, Beresford, who just happen to run the B&B we were staying in. The local chocolatier is also the barista, so after trying and buying some wine, it was time for coffee and hot chocolate. REAL hot chocolate made with lumps of chocolate, and milk, and steam. SWMBO was in heaven.

So… that brings us to try #2 at Russells Pizza. Our booking was in the courtyard – inside being very very very small, and chock-full. The courtyard was a little breezy, and verging on cold. But so what!

Russells is real wood oven pizza, in a “restaurant” with charm and a LOT of character. Tables have been scavenged from all over, so have the chairs.

dscn1556.JPG

dscn1566.JPG

You want a candle outside? No worries, it’s in an old jam tin. The menu is salad, pizza, and a cake of some kind for desert. The cake changes each day, thats about all that does. No cutlery – if you really want that, take it yourself. We were told some people take their own chairs! The place is justly famous though, the pizza was fabulous. We managed a 1/2 and 1/2:

  • Chili Chicken: chicken, garlic, yogurt, pickled lime, tomato and coriander.
  • Lamb: Slow cooked lamb, yogurt, pickled lime, tomato, dukkah and mint.

I’ve never had anything like this, really good flavours on a pizza without cheese (!), and with a crust that was thin, very crisp, and perfectly cooked. And so much we could barely make it through a single large one.

dscn1562.JPG

And that brings us to home day, today. Wine tasting was out of the question. I was beginning to feel like it was oozing out of my pores. Instead, a jolly good healthy walk was in order.

Followed by an ice-cream, of course.

Finally, we decided not to keep going with the ham / cheese / olives lunches of the last two days, but instead stopped in at the Woodstock Coterie, where who should be waiting tables but our host of the previous day from Fox Creek. Her suggestion was the soup – Sweet Potato and Pear (with a bit of ginger and chilli) which was outstanding. The Roo, the Smoked Salman Tart, and the Jazz Trio all made for a very good lunch and a nice way to finish the day before heading off to rescue grandma and head back to normality.

dscn1577.JPG
That be a Smoked Salmon Tart!

dscn1576.JPG
And that be 3 blokes playin’ Jazz

Only one thing about Woodstock was unusual. We must have been close on the youngest people there. Excluding the staff, the average age of the customers must have been about 60. Made us feel young and sprightly!

Tomorrow, unfortunately, is back to normal.

Son #1 liked the salad dressing

He liked it so much he had to lick out the bowl:

dscn0703.JPG

What the heck is Creaming Soda?

Yes, I know it’s pink stuff with bubbles, but what is it supposed to be?

When I was child it was one of those rare treats from the school canteen, about 5 cents, or maybe 10, bought a glass (!) bottle of fizzy pink stuff, which tasted – well – pink.

Not much seems to have changed. It is still available, the kids still seem to demand it, the bottles are now plastic instead of glass, and the price has gone up a little.

Many years later, I’m still in the dark, though. It’s pink – but what is the flavour supposed to be? And it’s called Creaming Soda. OK – the Soda from soda water – ie bubbly – I can understand that. But Creaming?

Best Breakfast – ever

This is one of those strange recollections that comes back now and again, a true story, naturally.

About 6 or 7 years ago I was working for a large company in Adelaide, and the thing we were building had to be installed in an F-111. But the F-111’s are based at RAAF Amberley, near Ipswich, outside Brisbane. As a consequence there was a great deal of travel to and fro, and many frequent flyer points were accumulated – about the only good thing to come out of doing a lot of flying, though it did take another 5 years to actually use them for anything. But I digress.

At the time of installing equipment in F-111’s, with all the attendant tribulations of making sure a plane does not fall from the sky, we had some kind of problem which meant I had to fly to Brisbane at a moments notice one Friday afternoon. To avoid disrupting schedules we had to work all weekend.

Saturdays on a RAAF base are pretty quiet, but Sundays are DEAD. I mean totally dead. There is not a soul to be found apart from the odd patrolling guard. And this led to the big problem of the day: where to get a feed. There was simply nowhere open, and especially for a civilian wandering around. The actual installation work was being done by Boeing, in one of their hangers, so we had access to their tea & coffee room, and somebody had a key! Bliss! We could feast all day on M&M’s from the Boeing fridge, at about $2 for a very small bag.

Needless to say, there was an early start. By Sunday afternoon, about 5pm, after being on the job for about 9 hours with only expensive chocolate crap to eat, we were famished. We were staying in Indooropilly at the time, and there was about a half hour drive back. Somewhere along the highway back from Ipswich we found a SHELL service station (I’m sure it’s still there) with a big sign out: “Breafast, all day”. This looked just the ticket, so we pulled in at 5:30 pm, and asked the rather startled attendant for breakfast. Bacon, a couple of eggs, sausages, grilled tomato, toast, and tea. Lots of it. Must have made her day, these two wierdo’s having brekky, but after a weekend of M&M’s for us this was bliss!

Powered by WordPress 2.8    Rendered in 23 queries and 0.409 seconds.    CleanBreeze Theme